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CDU student publishes single-author research paper

Axel Milne, a Bachelor of Education student at Charles Darwin University (CDU) has achieved academic success by publishing a single-author research paper in an international peer-reviewed journal.
Axel Milne, a Bachelor of Education student at Charles Darwin University (CDU) has achieved academic success by publishing a single-author research paper in an international peer-reviewed journal.

A young Charles Darwin University (CDU) Bachelor of Education student has achieved academic success by publishing a single-author research paper in an international peer-reviewed journal.

Territory local Axel Milne, who is studying a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) majoring in Chemistry and Biology at CDU, recently published his own research in the American Chemical Society.

The article, titled An Alternative to the Flame Test: Using Inexpensive Tesla Coils to Produce the Emission Spectra of Metal Salts, explores using Tesla coils in an experiment akin to the flame test, a common chemistry experiment in schools to identify elements and in particular metal ions.

In early 2020 after initial experiments with the Tesla coils, Mr Milne sent photos and chemical equations to clarify some concepts regarding photon emission to his lecturer Vinuthaa Murthy, who encouraged the then 21-year-old student to write a paper and submit it to journals.

“I spent a year writing it up in my spare time and submitted it for peer review. It was a challenging experience,” Mr Milne said.

“I did the paper, research and experimenting on top of studies and work. I really enjoyed the hands-on process. I love making stuff with my hands.”

The article showcases how the use of Tesla coils creates a more engaging demonstration and helps to dispel misconceptions around the traditional flame test, particularly what causes individual metals to produce unique colours of light when their atoms become excited.

“Students associate the changing colour with a chemical reaction but that’s not exactly what’s going on. This is a big misconception,” Mr Milne said.

“I wanted to show a different approach to that mechanism.”

A video demonstrating Mr Milne’s experiment with Tesla coils has reached more than 167,000 views on TikTok.

Mr Milne, now 23 years old, said he was set on the chemistry path thanks to his high school teachers.

“My goal is to become a chemistry teacher in secondary schools and teach all around Australia,” he said.

CDU College of Engineering, IT and Environment Senior Lecturer in Chemistry Dr Vinuthaa Murthy supported Mr Milne throughout his journal journey and praised his dedication.

Dr Murthy said it was “very rare” for a student so young to author and publish an article.

“He is my first undergraduate student I’ve known in the last 20 years who’s been published as single author,” Dr Murthy said.

“It wasn’t connected to the curriculum, it wasn’t a course requirement, it wasn’t connected to a project. He started it during the holidays and with a bit of pushing and different ideas and salts, he wrote the paper. Axel had the mettle in him to convert a fun holiday project to a publication.”

Dr Murthy said her “curious” and “creative” student had a bright future as a chemistry teacher and in research if he pursued the field.

“He is a high achiever and a very keen observer,” she said.

“Axel will make a very good STEM teacher who will inspire schoolkids to get into STEM.”

Read Mr Milne’s article here and watch the TikTok video here.

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